For two years, the ANO International Organ Festival presented its concerts online only, without an audience being present. This year, during the final ANO Festival event that completed the festival’s cycle, St. George’s Cathedral was filled to capacity, with the audience enjoying the sounds of Greece’s oldest ecclesiastical organ and the angelic voices of the singers who graced our Christmas concert in Ano Syros with their presence. With our event as their incentive, Syros residents and visitors alike strolled uphill through Ano Syros’ medieval settlement where the festively decorated alleys and the evocative Nativity Scene, lovingly created by the members of the St. George’s Cathedral parish, bestowed on everyone a one-of-a-kind Christmas holiday experience.
Our Christmas concert began with a short video from the organ concert given by Ourania Gassiou at Zadar, Croatia, which took place within the framework of the SONIC Project by the Syros Greek Catholic Association and was funded by the Erasmus+ Program. Production of the video was undertaken by Christos Tolis on behalf of the Zadar Organ Festival.
The Christmas ecclesiastical hymns and carols were performed to perfection by the members of the Children’s and Youth Choir of the Orchestra of the Cyclades under the direction of choral directors Nikos Roussos and Elli Gounari. In their singing performance, the choir members were assisted by singers Rena Vergou and Alexandros Dimitropoulos, as well as pianist Voula Glyka. Not only did their performance convey to the audience the happy message of the holy days of Christmas but it also proved that Syros can boast of a talented youth choir with a stellar future. The concert’s program continued with works written for organ and voice and brilliantly performed by soprano Georgia Balabini and organist Magdalini Kalopana. Our Christmas concert finished with a haunting performance of the traditional Christmas carol “Angels We Have Heard on High” by all performers.
In his brief overview of the festival’s activities throughout 2022, Charis Vekris, Executive Director, ANO International Festival, cited the steps that the festival made in order to accomplish its key priorities, priorities that had been determined as early as the festival’s beginnings: broadening awareness of the Festival among organ lovers at both the domestic and international level, as well as showcasing and breathing new life into the medieval settlement of Ano Syros.
In 2022, the ANO International Organ Festival took three, additional as well as significant steps:
1. It strengthened its ties with the local community through its collaboration with (a) the Syros Photo & Film Club; and (b) the Department of Product and Systems Design Engineering, School of Engineering, University of the Aegean, Syros campus;
2. It extended its outreach and enhanced its European identity through its collaboration with the Embassies of Poland, Czech Republic, and Croatia;
3. It set in motion its goal to raise awareness among the young over the invaluable contribution of the ecclesiastical organ to music. That was accomplished by means of ecclesiastical organ workshops for young adults under 30, and free reed harmonium (aerophone) workshops addressed to children and teenagers aged 10-16.
On behalf of the Catholic Diocese of Syros and the Syros Greek Catholic Association, Charis Vekris thanked all organizations that have been contributing to the Festival’s successful course. He also thanked for their signal contribution to the festival from 2017 to the present, all collaborators and volunteers who worked to make the festival a success.
The moving celebrations surrounding the concert ended with heartfelt wishes for the Christmas holidays given by His Excellency Petros Stefanou, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syros. The members of the Children’s and Youth Choir of the Orchestra of the Cyclades were all awarded a commemorative collectible designed by Anastasios Karamanos, a second-year, university student at the University of the Aegean’s Department of Product and Systems Design Engineering on the Syros campus.
Photography: Nikos Desypris